The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at Erling Haaland’s remarkable start to his Bundesliga career after arriving at Borussia Dortmund earlier this month.
Erling Haaland has become the darling of the Bundesliga since arriving from Red Bull Salzburg for a reported fee of €20 million. The 19-year-old, standing at 1.94m, has netted five goals in his two Bundesliga matches, even though he didn’t start in either of those two matches.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will be taking a deep dive into Haaland’s early success at BVB and whether or not he can really make a major impact in the Bundesliga.
Haaland: How is he different from other Dortmund strikers?
Haaland easily slots into the prolific brand of strikers Dortmund have had in recent years. Since Robert Lewandowski left in 2014, the Black and Yellows have had the services of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Michy Batshuayi and Paco Alcacer, all of whom have been incredibly successful.
However, what makes Haaland a class apart is the physicality he brings to the game. Standing at 1.94m, only Wout Weghorst (1.97m) and Bas Dost (1.96m) are taller than the Norwegian, as far as the premier Bundesliga strikers are concerned.
Prior to his move to Dortmund, there were questions raised, especially by Constantin Eckner of Spielverlagerung, regarding Haaland’s decision making in the final third and a lack of passing acumen (at least compared to Alcacer).
While those qualities haven’t quite been put to test yet, with the striker only featuring in 56 minutes of Bundesliga football so far, the youngster has certainly justified his in-game intelligence and ability to sense scoring opportunities – as highlighted by Statsbomb’s Abel Meszaros in this English version article from Spielverlagerung.
For his very first Bundesliga goal, Haaland made a well-timed run in behind the Augsburg defence. And against Koln, the striker waited for the perfect opportunity to put home the rebound from Thorgan Hazard’s effort to score the fourth Dortmund goal.
These two goals somewhat resembled Aubameyang’s famous tap-ins. But, the major difference between these two players is Haaland’s massive strides that almost take the opposing ball-carriers, by surprise. And this was particularly evident for his third goal against Augsburg.
The massive 1.94m frame gives Haaland a considerable advantage in aerial duels. But, his aerial prowess hasn’t been tested yet. Dortmund managed only one corner against Koln and six against Augsburg, two of which were taken before Haaland’s introduction.
So, it’s still pretty difficult to compare his heading ability with someone like Lewandowski, whose tally of 36 aerial duels won is only bettered by four other Bundesliga strikers. And the Pole stands at only 184 cm – joint shortest (along with Goncalo Paciencia) among anyone in the top half.
The influence of Dortmund attackers
Fortunately for Haaland, transitioning from Red Bull Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund will be made easy by the excellent bunch of creative players that are more than capable of sizing up chances for the young Norwegian.
The efficient play, as well as the creative prowess of players like Takumi Minamino, Hwang Hee-chan and Masaya Okugaya was key behind his excellent statistics at Salzburg. Similarly, at Dortmund, he has, at his service, pacy individuals like Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard, both of whom can break in between the lines anytime.
The seemingly telepathic combination between the attacking trifecta of Julian Brandt, Marco Reus and Sancho has been key to Dortmund’s overall chance creation this season.
Their ability to not only initiate a counterattack but also to pick out an ideal pass in behind the backline could help Haaland sustain his impeccable scoring run throughout his spell in the Bundesliga.
Can Haaland sustain his scoring run?
Borussia Dortmund will be up against Union Berlin in their next game. The club from the capital boast three tall central defenders in Kevin Schlotterbeck, Neven Subotic and Marvin Freidrich. While they could potentially pose a real challenge for Haaland aerially, their lack of mobility could be a problem in dealing with the Norwegian.
Union have a pretty decent defensive record this season. Their tally of 27 goals conceded is only bettered by VfL Wolfsburg (23) in the bottom half of the league.
A lot will depend on how Dortmund start the game, however. As it was evident in the last game, enjoying a positive start to a game could overwhelm even the most disciplined defences of clubs like Koln. And with Lucien Favre already stating that he will slowly integrate Haaland into the starting eleven, Marco Reus could once again retain his place in the false nine role.
The following game is against Werder Bremen, in the DFB Cup. There’s a good chance Haaland may get his full debut in that fixture. The northern giants have conceded as many as 16 goals in their last six matches, including a 5-1 defeat to FSV Mainz 05. Considering the turmoil that they are in right now, it could be an excellent opportunity for Dortmund and Haaland to extend their tally.
These are certainly exciting times for BVB fans. After an incredible start to the Ruckrunde, they will be keen on closing the gap at the top and with Haaland already showing strong signs, it wouldn’t be fair to rule out the Black and Yellows out of the title race.
At the same time, however, Favre really needs to address his side’s defensive issues. They clearly need a reliable defender alongside Mats Hummels, especially with Manuel Akanji struggling for form and Dan-Axel Zagadou having fitness problems. Meanwhile, the coach has remained hesitant to use Leonardo Balerdi.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see if Dortmund do secure the services of Emre Can before the transfer window slams shut. The German international has been linked with a move to Ruhrpott and you can read more about the transfer saga in this week’s edition of our Dortmund transfer roundup.